Judge Dredd: Titan, the eight-parter by myself Henry Flint, started a week or so back in 2000AD #1862 and, in a coincidental spot of scheduling, Judge Dredd: The Man Comes Around, drawn by RM Guera, is running in the new issue of the Judge Dredd Megazine (344). So January is Dredd month in the Williams household.
The Man Comes Around is a one-off 11-page story, written specifically for Guera. I’ve talked previously how much I loved his work on Scalped (if you’ve not read the Jason Aaron-written Vertigo series, buy the trades. One of the best comics of recent years), and it’s a thrill to have him draw this. Reading the finished product this week, his storytelling is pretty masterful. Everything in the script is there, dramatically conveyed, but it’s more than that. The best artists pick up on the tone of script, seem to enhance it. Of course, from a writer’s point of view, it helps if you know who you’re writing for, which isn’t always the case in comics. You can try and play to their strengths too.
The story itself is a cheery little number about mortality, primarily. Dredds, yours, but not mine, obviously. I am immortal, of course. Even if my hair was not. Someone’s chucking citizens off a City Block with explosives strapped to them. And it features a mystery animal too. Everone loves a mystery animal. You don’t get enough animals in Mega City One.
These page examples are black and white. Scalped’s Giulia Brusco joined Guera to colour the strip in the Megazine,, and it looks terrific. But you can see how well they work in B&W too. Guera’s Dredd feels like it would’ve been great on that ink-stain, comforting old paper from when I was first reading 2000AD in the early ’80s. Which is a compliment.
I’m really pleased with the story.
Titan, meanwhile, is my first real attempt at a long form Dredd. You kind of have to build up confidence writing the character, I find. There’s such a weight with Dredd due to history – both mine as a reader and because of the pure quality of the writing that’s occurred with the character in the past. You kind of think ‘Dredd’s Wagner’s’ and the status quo shouldn’t be messed with. But I’ve written more and more Dredd in recent times, feel like I’ve got a bit more of a sense of Joe rather than the snarly surface veneer, so I figured, why not. And there’s no point writing a story and leaving the status quo intact at the end. Things have to change or what’s the point. And things DO change at the end of this particular story.
Also taking Dredd into space to deal with an emergency on Titan – the near-mythical prison complex on one of Saturn’s moons where bad Judges are sent – that got me excited. It felt like the type of story I’d have loved to have read back in ’83, ’84, when I was starting to read 2000AD. Just the word ‘Titan’ has become like the bogeyman in Dredd strips over the years, yet we’ve rarely seen the place in the comic’s 30+ year history. You could argue the mind does a better job of creating a terrifying narrative than the reality, certainly. But you have to face your demons sooner or later.
And there’s a few surprises coming along the way.
Henry Flint is just perfect for this type of storyline too. Well, for Dredd in general, really. Again, while readers may go for flashy imagery, for a writer it’s all about the storytelling and Henry’s is absolutely clear. It’s a dream to write for. Everything in the script is there on the page, but made to look so much better (due to Henry also being a mad design genius).
And Dredd is very much about subtext, for me. His dialogue is always terse and may not reveal that much, but his true feelings are there simmering under. He’s no robot. You need an artist who can convey body language to do that. Characters who can act. Henry does that, which brings out so much more in the final strip.
Also in the Judge Dredd Megazine 344 is part 5 of ORDINARY. One more episode to go, building to our initial print finale, before Titan (Publishing! Not the Saturn moon) release the series as a mini-series and then graphic novel. D’israeli brilliant as ever. And the stakes raise for Michael to deadly extremes. Look:
I’ll talk more about Ordinary when the finale runs next month. It’s still, I think, the thing I’m proudest of in my comics career.